Why do we eat at restaurants? Three personal contemplations come to bear:
- I don’t want to cook today.
- I am craving for something ooey-gooey and mouthwateringly sinful; or
- I am lusting after that overly crowded, bustling atmosphere.
The fact is though, when we dine at most restaurants, we are promoting, in its current state, the darkest form of gluttony.
FACT: the restaurant industry is wrought with waste.
Whether it be throwing away uneaten leftovers, discarding the least attractive animal bits, or boiling down copious amounts of vegetables and variations of fat for a teeny tiny drizzle of pretention, restaurants have mastered the art of waste.
So, are we doomed to live as proponents of waste simply because we feel like eating out that day?
I would argue, no.
In my recent trip to Paris, I came across an ultra-cool spot in the 18th Arrondissement, called “La Recyclerie,” which has become a leader in sustainable food practices. Five features proved that this was no marketing ploy. Restaurants everywhere, pay close attention. There IS a better way.
1. Use of Unconventional Land
Inside the greenhouse-like space converted from an old train station, the atmosphere boasts a fresh vibe; twenty-somethings chill at an ornately carved wooden bar sipping Aperol spritz and thirty-somethings scarf down delectable grub at elementary school-like desks chattering loudly with their chums.
While awaiting a table, I dodge and weave through the crowd of chatterboxes, out the back door, and down a rickety metal ramp under an archway of vibrantly colored leaves to find myself in a haven of lushness surrounded by row upon row of vibrant vegetables flourishing with life. Impressively, all the institution’s dishes consist of vegetables plucked from their own grounds.
With the world’s resources dwindling quickly, agricultural land is of crucial importance. According to the World Resources Institute, the global population will increase by 30% in 2050, requiring 56% more food than we currently produce. This organization claims that one of the key answers to this problem is to increase food production without expanding agricultural land use. La Recyclerie’s novel methods of creating viable farmland among city dwellings is inspiring, producing over 170 species of flavor-packed plant-life for customers to enjoy.
2. The Craft of Bee-Hiving
It is not at all uncommon to spot a gentleman or two in a hazmat suit on the restaurant grounds tending to one of his four busy beehives. La Recyclerie’s award-winning honey has earned it a handful of gold and silver medals between 2016 and 2018 in the world of honey aces, including the “Label Made in Paris.” For the record, IT IS absolutely divine.
The organization, Sustain, explains that honeybees are the most abundant of all pollinating insects and therefore, the world’s most important pollinator. They estimate that one-third of the food we consume each day relies on pollination, mainly performed by bees. La Recyclerie is doing its part to encourage their survival and ultimately ours.
3. Promotion of Food in Abundance
Sprawling chicken coops, overflowing with bales of hay, cover the property… and if there were ever happy chickens, these were them. The roosters roam around freely in a relaxed stupor. The hens are hard at work, belting out a serenade of “bocks” while laying eggs by the dozen to dress our plates with fluffy scrambles.
Inside the cramped dining room, city slickers hungrily await their grub at a cafeteria-style counter. Subsequently, they are welcomed with luscious sustainably raised salmon lochs atop eggs fresh from the coop nestled into a garden of herbs and roots. On the side are heaps and heaps of baked bread smothered in homemade jams and butters, literally everything a “brunch-atic” demands. All of these selections are easily reproduced without fear of shortage.
4. Minimization of Waste
After patrons are done stuffing their bellies and basking in the true farm-to-table experience, they return their leftovers to the same cafeteria-style counter where attendants happily grab discarded trays and dump the remaining bits into a large bin marked “for the chickens,” taking their operation full circle. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 94 percent of the food Americans don’t eat ends up in a landfill or combustion facility. In 2017, the U.S. disposed of 38.1 million tons (a.k.a. a disgusting amount) of food waste. This restaurant’s practice in using the waste to fuel its foul is inciteful and can be replicated in other cities with the right intent and leadership.
5. Composting Like a Pro
Whatever scraps cannot be eaten such as banana skins or fruit or vegetable peels are put right back into the earth, permitting the plant-life to absorb their nutrients.
This is all made possible under the leadership of Mayor Anne Hidalgo, elected to office in 2014. I firmly believe that if we want a future, we need to fight for that future to exist. This is a step in the right direction.
Other revolutionaries in the food industry have brought this issue to light, such as Anthony Bourdain in his documentary, Wasted, or Fergus Henderson, in her book, The Whole Beast. The common theme is to ACT.
ACT by recognizing the issue and sharing with others.
ACT by changing your habits in your own home.
ACT by encouraging neighborhood restaurants to adopt more responsible business practices.
La Recyclerie’s example proves that innovation brings possibility. Join the crusade.